We recently asked on our Facebook page for survivors of rape and sexual assault to share their coping strategies.
We had 12 amazing responses.
Being the victim of a sex crime is something that no one should ever have to go through. Unfortunately, many do.
If you’re struggling to cope, remember that support is available. And remember that these 12 people once felt exactly like you – and managed to survive. They are super-heroes. And you can be too.
Here are their coping strategies.
Carol: Running and trying new experiences
“I started running. I dove headfirst into new experiences and meeting new people. I spent time carefully tailoring myself, my appearance, my outward image. I delved deep within myself and pursued the things that allowed me to be and embrace and celebrate who I wanted to be, who I knew I still was – despite my fears that my identity had been eroded by trauma. I kept myself so busy that I didn’t have time to fixate on the damage done. And I grew. Each new experience, each celebration of self helped me pick up more and more pieces, until I had gathered more substance than there had been initially and I was overflowing with life. All those joyous pieces gathered to me help me when the darkness looms.”
Suze: Walking and meditation
“After trying to deny what had happened to me and using alcohol to numb me, I realised I would have to tackle the fact that I was raped head-on. I walked out my anger and spent as much time as I could in nature. I meditated and came to realise that being raped was something that happened to me. It was not a mark on my soul. It was not an indelible marker on my head. It was not who I am. Understanding this allowed me to release myself from the burden of shame and guilt that I had been carrying as I felt inexplicably responsible. I am still healing, but I am healing.”
Fiona: Talking and therapy
“I contacted my local Rape Crisis centre. Just having someone to talk to, who understands what you’re going through, without being judged, let it all out to start the healing process. I also asked my doctor to refer me to a psychologist. This can take a few months depending on where you live. You have to be ready to do this or it won’t help. Psychological therapies offer several coping strategies. Your psychologist will help you explore ways to find what suits you best. Be honest with yourself and your psychologist. If you ever get the opportunity to attend psychodrama, grab it with both hands! You also need a support network to help get you through each day at a time. Opening up to psychology sessions makes it all so raw. Be prepared for flash backs, panic attacks etc. It’s not easy but bear with it because you are worth it. I wouldn’t be here today without the love and support from my family and both my counsellors. Not forgetting all the hard work I put into putting one foot in front of the other. Empower yourself to start the journey to become a survivor.”
Woodstock: Learning self-awareness
“I learned to listen to my body. This was the best coping mechanism I have discovered. I developed PTSD after my experience, and when I started listening to my body… well, it hasn’t been an easy road to recover, of course, but it has been a lot easier than if I had fought against what was inside of me. Instead, I now consistently check in with my body – “What am I feeling?” and “What do I need/want here?” I gave it a voice when it was crying out to be heard. I also let the people in my life know about what was going on, and made no apologies for however I would work to recover. The ones who love you are the ones who stand by you through it all. Keep them, let go of the rest. You need to support yourself and also have a positive support team.”
Francesca: Understanding my feelings, seeing beauty in everything, living a simple life
“I learned to communicate about what I was feeling. I learned to put names and definitions to my emotions. I learned to read beneath the reaction (e.g. Anger is a secondary emotion. Why am I angry? What else am I feeling? Am I afraid? Hurt? ) and react accordingly. And I learned to see peace and beauty in everything – from the light shining through the trees to two people interacting – and focus on how beautiful life can be. Most importantly, I acknowledged that it was more important for me to live a simple lifestyle that makes me happy, mostly engaging only with people that I trust and respect, and taking my time to finish school and find a part for myself. I am 22 now, 11 years have passed on this journey. At the time, I had no way to cope or comprehend. Now, I can wake up and say that I like my life and want to live it.”
Vicky: Having a goal and avoiding bitterness
“I tried a lot of different things, some adaptive, some hurtful to myself. But what I found was that no matter what, you need a goal to keep your recovery and rebuilding what was taken from you on track. Mine was to never become hard. I had been taken advantage of and used, and I could have used that to become bitter and hateful and distrusting, but that isn’t a coping strategy that is good for you deep down. I always kept in mind “Being both soft and strong is a skill very few have mastered”, and that I wanted to be one of those people. Stay strong, but stay soft. What happened was nothing to do with you, and as long as you remember that you are more, and you can do more, than what happened in your past, then you’ll get there in the end.”
Christi: Raising awareness of sexual/domestic violence
“I did everything and anything I could to fight back, and still do to this day. Any chance I am given, I talk about what happened to me so that other people know the signs of an abuser, and how to stop domestic violence that is happening in front of their eyes.”
Anonymous: Running and keeping busy
“I run a lot, because I find that it allows me a lot of blank head space. I also have found that work is a powerful tool. I find that I simply don’t have time to get upset because I always have something else to do.”
“I started writing an anonymous blog about how I was feeling. It hurt sometimes, but ultimately it helped a huge amount to write everything down and get it out of my system. It also helped me to make sense of my thoughts. I am healed now, and I know I couldn’t have done it without the therapeutic act of pouring out my soul onto the page.”
“I took up the gym. Exercise helps me manage my depression, my insomnia and my intense emotions. It helps me feel strong and helps me realise even though my back is damaged due to abuse I’m still fit, strong and able. I have lost weight which has improved my self-esteem. I slowly started to trust people and having a few understanding friends has broken the isolation. I also find walking my dogs a pleasure and they offer me the unconditional love I lost out on as a child. Pets, I find, are very healing.”
Rebecca: Talking and group therapy
“A regular therapist and going to groups is really important for me. When we share experiences it feels like I’m not facing everything alone, that it isn’t just me.”
“Painting allowed me to express myself and pour out my grief, anger, confusion and hurt. With each brush-stroke, I feel calmer. Every time I mark that canvas, I am less broken inside – like I am becoming whole, like I am evolving from a victim to a survivor.”
Do you have your own coping strategies you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below.